Laser Scanning and BIM

  1. There are a number of misconceptions about the integration of laser scanning and BIM.
  2. Revit, one of the leading BIM software products does not offer support for point clouds.
  3. The GSA was very active in promoting the integration of BIM and laser scanning but has not been advertising projects.

On a day where there is not a lot of industry news I thought it might be worth revisiting the topic of laser scanning and BIM. For those not familiar, BIM refers to Building Information Modeling, at least that’s the way it started out. (I may have noted this before, but it really bothers me when I hear someone say “BIM Models”. This to me is like a “GIS system”.)

Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation and misconceptions when it comes to BIM and laser scanning. We all might wish there was a magic tool for converting laser scanned data into a BIM, or do we?

One of the leading BIM  software products is Revit from Autodesk. This software does not offer support for point clouds, although Autodesk has recently released 2 point cloud engines for other products – what does that tell you about customer demand from the BIM side?

A BIM certainly would benefit from accurate 3D geometry, but that can often create its own set of problems since CAD engines are designed to work with ideal, planar and orthogonal surfaces. That is not what is found in the real world.

A few years ago the GSA seemed to be taking the lead in the integration of laser scanning and BIM, but from what I can find out the projects are not being requested.

I wish I had more positive news, but there is very little progress being made on the real integration of laser scanning and BIM. Today it is still a manual CAD modeling effort.

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4 Responses to Laser Scanning and BIM

  1. Nick P says:

    This is a very timely article. BIM is one of the topics that will be discussed at the MAPPS Winter Conference this January. A full detail of the panel will be released by the MAPPS program committee soon but the session will include applications, equipment and methodology.

  2. It does still seem we are a good year away from seeing any substantive movement on true scan data/BIM development package integration. Although we’re working more with Revit I still think the most interesting development was with Bentley licensing the Pointools Vortex point cloud engine. I’ve not heard of much since though.

    Rhino has the beta out for RhinoBIM which would create a pretty strong all round 3D modeling and Viz BIM package. Rhino has the plug-ins for making more use of scan data for those that know it.

  3. John Rodriguez says:

    You have really nailed it on several levels. First) The uniformed concept of BIM by the masses. Second) The lack of sufficient and effective tools to translate LIDAR data towards CAD/Dynamic Modelling tools, Third) The attachment of extended data to Point Clouds for LIDAR with intelligence.

    My thoughts are that as the bandwidth expands for those using these technologies the demand for more functionality will force/guide software developers towards those tools the industry is expecting!

  4. joe croser says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I think we are a good bit closer than you may think.

    I am part of the Pointools team so i was very pleased to read that you found interest in the Bentley>Pointools licensing agreement. But I was a bit disheartened to read on and learn that you think it’s all gone a bit quiet since. The good news is that much has happened since, even if the details from Bentley and Pointools have not successfully made their way to you.

    1). Bentley has now shipped a number of products that incorporate the Pointools Vortex point cloud engine including: MicroStation, OpenPlant, Bentley Substation, Navigator, Bentley BIM, plus many more.

    2). Our Pointools Plug-in for AutoCAD provides all AutoCAD-based apps with the same high-performance point cloud capabilities across a number of versions from 2007-2011 (where applicable) including: AutoCAD, Map3D, Civil3D, AutoCAD Architecture, MEP, etc.

    3) We also have a Pointools Plug-in for Rhino3D which again provides unrivalled point cloud performance inside Rhino enabling users to combine surface, solids, and point cloud models.

    4) Of course as a Pointools user () you already know we also have stand-alone applications for visualisation and animation (via Pointools View Pro) and point cloud processing and clean-up (via Pointools Edit) which both work on the same *.POD (POint Data) model files that the above named apps work with.

    In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Pointools is the only software vendor that is dedicated to creating high-performance software for working with the largest point cloud models inside the broadest range of applications based on the fact that no other vendor comes close to providing similar levels of point cloud interoperability and reuse.

    But, with all that said, we clearly need to do a much better job getting the word out – especially to loyal and existing users like yourself. To improve in this regard, we recently strated a blog and we created a twitter page to help get the Pointools news out. Please do sign-up to follow us on twitter at .


    Joe Croser

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